United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
8, 2015, David Cody applied for disability benefits, alleging
disability beginning on January 9, 2015. (Tr. at 10) Mr.
Cody's claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Mr.
Cody's application. (Tr. at 19) Mr. Cody requested that
the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but that
request was denied. (Tr. at 1) Therefore, the ALJ's
decision now stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. Mr. Cody filed this case seeking judicial
review of the decision denying her benefits. The parties have
consented to this court's jurisdiction. (Docket entry #4)
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Cody had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of January 9, 2015.
(Tr. at 12) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ
found that Mr. Cody had the following severe impairments:
osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, hypertension,
shoulder impingement, and plantar fasciitis. Id.
finding that Mr. Cody's impairments did not meet or equal
a listed impairment (Tr. at 13), the ALJ determined that Mr.
Cody had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work, with some additional limitations.
Id. He could not perform frequent reaching with the
non-dominant upper extremity, but could perform unlimited
reaching with the dominant upper extremity. Id. He
could only occasionally crouch, crawl, and kneel.
found that Mr. Cody was unable to perform any past relevant
work. (Tr. at 17) At step five, however, the ALJ relied on
the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to
find, based on Mr. Cody's age, education, work experience
and RFC, that he was capable of performing work in the
national economy as furniture rental consultant and counter
clerk. (Tr. at 18) The ALJ determined, therefore, that Mr.
Cody was not disabled. (Tr. at 19)
Standard of Review
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th
Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this
context means “enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support the ALJ's decision.”
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009)
(citation omitted). In making this determination, the Court
must consider not only evidence that supports the
Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports
a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision,
however, “merely because substantial evidence exists
for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater,
108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).
Cody's Arguments on Appeal
Cody argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. He argues that the ALJ
should have found his back disorder to be a severe
impairment, that the RFC exceeded Mr. Cody's abilities,
and that the credibility analysis was flawed.
Court agrees that Mr. Cody's back disorder should have
been ruled a severe impairment. The claimant has the burden
of proving that an impairment is severe, which by definition
significantly limits one or more basic work activities.
Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 894 (8th Cir.
2006); see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 141
(1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). A physical or mental
impairment must last or be expected to last not less than 12
months. Karlix v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 742, 746 (8th
Cir. 2006). If the impairment would have no more than a
minimal effect on the claimant's ability to do work, then
it does not satisfy the requirement of Step Two. Page v.
Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007).
an impairment is severe is an important issue because it
affects the RFC determination. A claimant's RFC
represents the most he can do despite the combined effects of
all of his credible limitations and must be based on all
credible evidence. McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605,
614 (8th Cir. 2011). In determining the claimant's RFC,
the ALJ has a duty to establish, by competent medical
evidence, the physical and mental activity that the claimant
can perform in a work setting, after giving appropriate
consideration to all of his impairments. Wildman v.
Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 969 (8th Cir. 2010); Ostronski
v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 418 (8th Cir. 1996). The ALJ
bears the primary responsibility for assessing a
claimant's RFC - that is, what he or she can still do, in
spite of severe impairments.
Wildman, 596 F.3d at 969. If an impairment is
non-severe, then the ALJ does not consider it in the RFC
analysis, or pose a hypothetical to the VE involving that
of 2014, Mr. Cody complained of low back pain and was tender
to palpation over the lumbar spine. (Tr. at 419-420). He was
diagnosed with arthralgias and joint pain. Id. A
month later, he complained of low back pain ...